THE SWAMP VANISHES
A casualty of ‘exigeant and remorseless modern civilization’
Before European settlers arrived in Port Phillip district, a large wetland that lay between the Yarra River and the Moonee Ponds Creek sustained the life and cultural traditions of the Kulin nation.
It was known by European settlers as Batman’s Swamp, later West Melbourne Swamp, While some people saw it as a thing of beauty, within a few short years the swamp was noisome and reviled, and talk began of draining and reclamation. By the end of the century significant engineering works had changed the very shape of the land.
A feature of the land which had sustained Aboriginal people for millennia prior to European settlement in 1835 became a refuge for the down and out during the 1930s depression.
‘Reclamation’ works continued until the wetland is now represented by the Dynon Road Tidal Canal, parallel to Dynon Road, and a small wetland reserve.
This exhibition traces how a significant wetland vanished from sight.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visitors are warned that this exhibition contains images of deceased persons.
The RHSV also warns that there might be words and descriptions quoted that could be culturally sensitive and which might not normally be used in public or community contexts. Words and descriptions that reflect the authors and the historical period in which the item was written, may be considered inappropriate today.
Click on the images to explore the exhibition online.
Early Maps of the Port Phillip District
West Melbourne Swamp as a 'Salt Lake'
A Picturesque Lagoon
The problem of the swamp
Maps and Plans 1880-1935
Refuge for the Homeless
The Jack Wetherly painting
The William Barak Painting
The Yarra Changes
The Swamp and the Press
A Kulin Estate
Animals of the swamp
A view from the gasworks
The Swamp in Photographs
The Swamp Vanishes
The Swamp Vanishes
Original exhibition displayed January 2020 – January 2021
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Poster designed by Daisy Searls.
The design is from an etching by Julian Ashton Rossi, based on the 1841 watercolour by Georgiana McCrae, included in the exhibition panel ‘A Picturesque Lagoon’.
Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Collection